Direct Communications Hires Local Tech Brenden Argyle

argyle IMG_1106

Brenden Argyle of Paris Idaho

Direct Communications welcomes Bear Lake County native, Brenden Argyle, to the team as a new installation and combo tech. In his role as a tech, Brenden will be responsible for field installation and troubleshooting of high speed internet, cable TV and phone service in the Bear Lake area.

Brenden is familiar with various wireless routers, including Linksys, Netgear, and Belkin, comes trained in use of cat-5 and coax cable, and is familiar with both PC and Apple products. Brenden’s prior experience includes working for Digis, Satellite Solutions, and U.S.D.A. Forest Service as a Firefighter.

Please say hi to Brenden as you see him working in the area, and congratulate him on the new job.

Life at 100 Mb – How I Broke into the 1%

I always knew that someday I would make it into the 1%. I have been aiming to be a part of it since the day I arrived off the boat with just a suitcase in my hand. Unfortunately, I am not talking about my adjusted gross income,  which according to the IRS still puts me right amongst the riffraff, or for the true 1%, “rif et raf,” meaning  “one and all” in French.  But, now that I have 100Mb broadband speeds to my home, I can boldly claim to be part of the new 1% internet glitterati, which is almost as good.

100mb speed test result

100mb speed test result

If you don’t believe that internet speed is the new status symbol, replacing both the BMW and paid-off mortgage to let people know that you have arrived, just look at how the Washington liberal elite are making the National Broadband Plan their new priority. The current administration has looked at rural America, and seen how we fat cat country folk have been gorging ourselves on broadband, building “elite,” “premium” and “unnecessary” fiber optic networks to sparsely populated areas, while the more deserving cosmopolitans in the great cities of this nation languish on archaic, dilapidated copper networks that the Big Telecoms have not bothered to update since the 50’s. Consequently, city folk struggle to get 3Mb speeds in many cases. The average broadband connection in the United States is only 6.6 Mbps downstream, according to Akamai’s latest State of the Internet Report. To correct this gross injustice with some smart social engineering, the administration has declared, nay—decreed, that 100Mb speeds must be the goal for broadband to urban areas, but that 4Mb is good enough for simple rural folk. There may of course be political motivation behind this, due to the demographic distribution of where the current administration’s votes come from, but, regardless, it is clear that even at the very top of the Ivory Towers, they now recognize that to have arrived you must have 100Mb speeds.

It wasn’t easy for a poor immigrant like me to break into the 1%. Like many people in that other elite 1%, it may in the end have come down to a lot of luck, and being in the right place at the right time. The first thing I had to do was move to an area served by a rural telecom with the funding to build out their fiber optic network, and then unwittingly build a home so remote, so far away from the existing copper network, that the only option was to break out a strand from their main fiber backbone and bring it directly to my home. In this way my new house became the first in Idaho to have fiber to the home. This event was published in the Idaho State Journal back in 2006. At the time, I was cruising on the fastest available speed of 12Mb, which was unprecedented back then. A couple of weeks ago I ordered our newly available 100Mb speed package. But, although I now had that speed to the fiber optical network terminal on my home, my old reliable Linksys router simply could not handle the awesomeness of those speeds. The maximum output to my computer, Xbox and other direct-wired ethernet devices on my home network was only about  35Mb. As for the wireless devices like the Kindle and Droids, forget about it. Clearly the router was holding me back, so it had to go.

So, I consulted with my friend Jeremy Smith, who is also my neighbor and boss, and one of the few people I know in our small town who is a bigger internet geek than me. He showed me his Cisco E2000 router, which has the rare feature in a consumer-grade router of having Gigabit ports. I found a refurb model on Cisco’s website for only $39, so it was a no-brainer to upgrade to a new router. As an important side note, this E2000 is not Cisco/Linksys newest router—it’s an older model. They now have a lot of fancier ones with the ability to broadcast multiple guest networks at once and such, but they didn’t think to build Gig ports into them because, after all—who caters to the politically incorrect 1% anymore? But, the Gigabit ports are the key. If you are subscribing to higher speeds and not getting the full potential out of your internet—that is the first place you should look. Regular 10/100 ethernet grade ports will not get you to 100Mb. The second I plugged in my new Cisco Gig router into my network, I was able to get the full 100Mb download speeds to my wired devices. My upload speeds were only set to 5Mb on purpose, because that is the current residential upload offering here in Idaho, but in theory, over fiber, Direct Communications has the ability to deliver the full symmetrical 100Mb up and down.

My next dilemma was, now that I have arrived, what do I do with my 100 Mbps internet connection? I have faster speeds than 99% of the country—I need to do something important online. So, naturally, the first thing I did was take a screen shot of my speed test and post it to my brothers to make them jealous, because they still live in speed-deprived metropolises like San Francisco and Salt Lake City . I learned this trick from our customers on our corporate facebook page, who have shown me the importance of posting speed tests online. The thing about having obscenely fast speeds is that the speed, just like making even more money for the financial 1%, becomes an obsession—it becomes necessary to keep running speed tests just to make sure you are still in the 1%. So, that was also an obvious way to use my connection—run more speed tests and pat myself on the back each time.

The latest national report on bandwidth usage in the USA from network solutions provider Sandvine, says that the average household now uses about 52GB per month, or about 81 hours of streaming video, and that Netflix is responsible for 33 percent of all downstream traffic. As already stated, I have never wanted to be average, and over the past couple of years, I would estimate that I have been personally responsible for at least 2% of all download traffic in the USA due to my Netflix usage. We dropped out satellite years ago when we figured out Hulu was free and Netflix also had free streaming.  But, now that I am in the 1%, it’s time to step up my streaming video usage. Using my elitist training in statistics and standard normal distribution, I calculated that if the national average was 81 hours of streaming video, (guessing a generous standard deviation of 20 hours) to become part of the streaming 1%, I would only have to consume about 128 hours a month of streaming video. That is just over 4 hours a day, which really is not a lot of online video, especially by my family’s standards. I use that on my Kindle over breakfast.

So, I looked to become a little more exclusive, but even to be a one-in-a-million consumer, you only have to watch 178 hours a month, or 5.9 hours a day. Clearly, America is not watching enough online video—the bar is currently very low. Our baby alone is probably using that much up each day just watching Dora on Netflix. She is more like a one-in-a-billion consumer of internet media. This sounds good, but is probably not something to put in Parenting Magazine.  Perhaps to feel more like an elite 1%, we should do something more extreme, like put an internet-enabled TV in all of the bathrooms–luckily I already took the precaution of wiring our Jacuzzi tub with ethernet for just such an emergency.

Of course, the real advantage of more speed today is the number of devices you can connect and stream to at the same time. In my home we have an Xbox, a Wii, a Roku, two desktops, some laptops, a couple of smartphones, and a tablet. That’s only about 8 devices. I know people who have a lot more devices than that in their homes, especially if they have a lot of teenage kids. If the new primetime at home consists of Mom catching up on The Bachelor on her iPad as she runs on the treadmill, while Dad is watching reruns of Shark Week on Netflix, and the kids are on episode 103 of SpongeBob on the Xbox, that is going to require a very robust, constant feed. Family time is just not what it used to be when everybody was staring at the same screen, but multiple screens require multiple IP streams into the home, and that is where we as the 1% truly shine. I sometimes hear customers complain that they can’t watch Netflix and use their VOIP phone at the same time, and I can only shake my head in pity, because they are only subscribing to 1.5Mb speed. If I am to fulfill my responsibility as part of the 1%, I clearly need to invest in even more screens, and I need to keep them all streaming simultaneous, whether anybody is watching them or not.

I have noticed with the financial 1%, that it is difficult for them to fathom how regular folks live. After a while of being rich, they tend to assume that all people live the way they do. They will say things in conversation like: “I don’t understand why you are going camping for your family reunion. Why don’t you all just go on a cruise like a normal family?” Hopefully I will start to become that way with my elite internet service. For example, I already just assume that everyone watches ESPN3, Hulu, Netflix and orders new releases on Amazon Instant Video like I do, or at the very least make use of remote Slingbox at an undisclosed location. I question why the masses are still wasting their limited income on old-fashioned satellite, or worse—visiting that bacteria-infested Red Box. But, I recently tried to watch a BYU game on ESPN3 at a relative’s house in Salt Lake City using my remote access account, and it was an absolute nightmare—not even worth watching over their 4Mb internet connection. The resolution and quality adjusts to your internet speed, and this was so pixilated that I could barely make out the opposing teams colors. I am used to watching ESPN3 on the Xbox at home in full HD, with no buffering, and a crystal-clear picture even better than HD satellite, because they use more compression in their digital feed than our direct internet feed does.

I am probably never going to be in the financial 1%. In fact, I suspect  I don’t even know anybody who is part of that 1%. But, I am finding it’s not easy being part of any kind of 1%, and I’m beginning to feel a slight empathy for them because of our shared experience. There’s the taunts, the derision from co-workers, the protests and the whining from regular folks complaining about their lesser service, the threat of government redistribution of bandwidth hanging over our heads, and the boredom of having unlimited resources at your fingertips. I can’t even enjoy the mobile data on my cell phone anymore—it is ruined forever for me. How could I ever go back from 100Mb? I will never be able to move into a house without fiber again. My options for relocating are going to be extremely limited from now on. Sometimes I just miss the old fashioned phone—it is tiresome having to dress up for video-conferencing all the time. I’m trying to be a good representative of our elite super-broadband caste, but I don’t play games; I don’t look at porn; I don’t download or upload anything illegal. I don’t even Bit Torrent. I wonder what the proletariat would do with 100Mb? Even though it means I will just be one of the masses again, we are going to have to give 100 Mb to all of them someday. Hopefully by then I will have 1 Gig speeds.

The News-Examiner- Directcom to Offer First 100 Mbps Residential Broadband Service in Idaho

Published Sep 19, 2012, by The News-Examiner in Montpelier, Idaho.

Directcom Customer Newsletter -Idaho – Fall 2012

The Directcom Connection- Customer Newsletter

The Directcom Connection- Customer Newsletter September 2012

Here are a few updates about how we have been involved in your community this summer:

Directcom to Offer First 100 Mbps Residential Broadband Service in Idaho

Direct Communications will become the first major internet service provider in Idaho to offer 100 Mbps service to residential customers, when they roll out a 100Mb package to customers starting this month.

Fiber Optic Cable means more speed.

These unprecedented speeds have been made possible by the expansion of Direct Communications fiber-to-the-home service, which the company began installing in 2006 to a limited number of new homes, where it made more sense to install new optic fiber cable rather than copper lines. However, over the past two years, Directcom has begun a systematic upgrade of all the lines in their telephone exchange areas, replacing aging copper lines with new fiber optic cable all the way to individual customer homes. Once the fiber is in place, there is unlimited potential for more speed. 100Mb is about as much as most modern consumer-grade electronics equipment can handle.

Jeremy Smith, General Manager for Direct Communications operations in Idaho, explained why the company was aggressively pursuing converting to an all-fiber network: “I see fiber optic cable as being non-negotiable to ensure the economic future of rural America, not just for our customers but also for us to stay relevant as a communications provider. I simply don’t agree with the current Federal Administration’s philosophy that rural Americans don’t need as much speed as people in cities. Everybody needs good internet service; in fact I would argue that rural folks need high speed internet even more than their city counterparts because we are so remote, and fiber is the only way you can push a good broadband signal out far enough to reach all of our customers. Having access to unlimited broadband is the future to both economic development and personal educational opportunity. Someday, each home that wants to be part of the global information economy will probably require minimum speeds of 100 Mbps. We just wanted to get a head start.”

READ MORE…

Watch More Football on ESPN3

More Football is on ESPN3

Have you tried ESPN3 yet? Just click on the ESPN3 link from our homepage to start watching. This is a fantastic complimentary feature that now comes included with your Directcom Internet subscription. Direct Communications is the only Internet Service Provider in Southeast Idaho that gives customers access to ESPN3. ESPN3.com delivers more than 3,500 live online events a year from your favorite sports through an easy-to-use online interface. Features of the website include the ability to watch multiple games simultaneously, get real-time stats and scoreboards, and live chat for interacting with friends and other fans. ESPN3 will stream over 90 college football games during September, over 50 of which are exclusive. This fall ESPN3 will include games from BYU, Utah, Boise State and USU. Another great feature of ESPN3 is the ability to replay games on demand anytime, and the replays include very convenient bookmarks so that you can skip to all of the important plays. See the month’s schedule at https://blog.directcom.com/2012/08/20/college-football-on-espn3-this-september/

Arbon Fiber-to-the-Home Project Complete

This spring, Direct Communications engineers completed the upgrade of Arbon Valley from traditional copper telephone lines to Fiber-to-the-Home, enabling every resident in Arbon to receive broadband access.

The company’s fiber to the home rollout in Arbon began in the summer of 2009, and since then, Directcom crews have been working around the clock, laying fiber optic cable to all of the homes in the Arbon Valley. Even the very remote homes, from those miles up in the mountains to down the valley, can now receive better high-speed internet service than is available in most cities in the USA. The company began with Arbon because this exchange area had always been the most difficult to serve with traditional DSL over copper, and thus had the fewest broadband subscribers.

Direct Communications buried 158 miles of fiber optic cable in Arbon Valley, bringing fiber to about 90 homes.

Matt Farr, Engineer and Operations Manager for Direct Communications in Idaho, shows a typical Calix ONT that is installed on the side of a home to convert the fiber light signal to Ethernet and phone service.

Matt Farr, Engineer and Operations Manager stated: “Arbon was a good starting point for us because it was so open, the construction was straightforward, and there weren’t a lot of other utilities to worry about running into. Also, we had a lot of customers there in Arbon that simply could not receive any internet signal before, because the farms and homes were so spread out. Fiber was the solution. It’s been good to hear customers tell us things like: ‘We tried streaming Netflix for the first time ever last night—that was pretty cool.’”

CLICK TO READ MORE…

This story was also published in the  Idaho State Journal, Sep 12, 2012.

“Arbon Valley just became a lot less remote thanks to an upgrade of its phone system to fiber optics. Every resident in Arbon now is able to receive broadband access.”

Click on the link below to read the ISJ article.

http://www.idahostatejournal.com/members/article_0c6e26ce-fca1-11e1-887a-001a4bcf887a.html

Good job to all the techs and crew involved, including Jason Garner, Brent Moss (now retired) Brad Medinger, Lucas McHargue, Phil Pratt, Steven Robinson, and the many others who invested several years of their lives working through mud, snow and wind to bring fiber broadband to the folks in Arbon.

Refer-a-friend and get $100

Refer a friend and get $100.

As families head back-to-school this month, people will be thinking seriously about their internet service reliability, and now may be a good opportunity for you to tell your friends about the superior quality of Direct Communications High-Speed Internet, and give them your referral card.If they sign up for Directcom Broadband, you will receive a $100 credit, and your friend will get a month of service FREE. Refer as many friends as you like—you may never have to pay for internet service again. Download a refer-a-friend card here.

Join us on Facebook.

Direct Communications has a Facebook page exclusively for our Idaho customers, and we want you to join our group. Facebook is a great way for you to stay in touch with us for upcoming changes, immediate notifications, instant updates, specials and free stuff, and helps us keep in touch with what our customers need. A lot of improvements that we have made over the past couple of years have come from customer suggestions on facebook, which we welcome.

Like our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/directcom

Direct Communications at your county fair

Rachel and her steer with Kip Wilson at the Power County Fair 4H Auction.

This summer Directcom set up booths at the South Bannock County Fair in Downey, the Franklin County Fair in Preston, the Caribou County Fair in Grace, and the Bear Lake County Fair in Montpelier. We also supported the 4H program at the Power County Fair. We enjoyed being in your home towns, seeing your artwork, crafts, and even judging Apple Pie contests; meeting our customers, talking to local residents about our service and fiber optic cable network construction throughout these towns, and handing out candy, Frisbees and t-shirts. We also tried something new this year, and constructed a money/coupon wind booth, which we called our “Cash Cave.” Customers could step inside the Cave and had 30 seconds to grab as many bills or money-saving coupons as they could. We had several new customers, and 14 current customers, win free service in our cash cave, including one who grabbed a YEAR of FREE service. Come and see us next year again at the fair.Read more about our involvement at your fair at https://blog.directcom.com/2012/09/13/why-we-love-county-fairs/

New Outages Mailing List

Wehave a new Idaho Outages Mailing List, where we can make you aware of any upcoming maintenance outages via email. To subscribe to this list, please visit http://support.directcom.com/lists/?p=subscribe&id=1

If you previously subscribed to this list last year, please do so again, as this application has been recently modified and you will need to re-register your email to get onto the new list.

Directcom in Idaho State Journal – “Bringing the cable home.”

Published in the  Idaho State Journal, Sep 12, 2012.

“Arbon Valley just became a lot less remote thanks to an upgrade of its phone system to fiber optics. Every resident in Arbon now is able to receive broadband access.” Click on the link below to read the article.

http://www.idahostatejournal.com/members/article_0c6e26ce-fca1-11e1-887a-001a4bcf887a.html

This story covers our completion of the Arbon fiber to the home project. Good job to all the techs who spent several years working through rain, snow and wind to bring fiber to the good folks in Arbon.

Directcom Completes Arbon Fiber-to-the-Home Project

This spring, Direct Communications engineers completed the upgrade of Arbon Valley from traditional copper telephone lines to Fiber-to-the-Home, enabling every resident in Arbon to receive broadband access.

The company’s fiber to the home rollout in Arbon began in the summer of 2009, and since then, Directcom crews have been working around the clock, laying fiber optic cable to all of the homes in the Arbon Valley. Even the very remote homes, from those miles up in the mountains to down the valley, can now receive better high-speed internet service than is available in most cities in the USA. The company began with Arbon because this exchange area had always been the most difficult to serve with traditional DSL over copper, and thus had the fewest broadband subscribers.

Direct Communications buried 158 miles of fiber optic cable in Arbon Valley, bringing fiber to about 90 homes.

Matt Farr, Engineer and Operations Manager stated: “Arbon was a good starting point for us because it was so open, the construction was straightforward, and there weren’t a lot of other utilities to worry about running into. Also, we had a lot of customers there in Arbon that simply could not receive any internet signal before, because the farms and homes were so spread out. Fiber was the solution. It’s been good to hear customers tell us things like: ‘We tried streaming Netflix for the first time ever last night—that was pretty cool.’”

Matt Farr, Engineer and Operations Manager for Direct Communications in Idaho, shows the new Calix ONT (Optical Network Terminal) that is installed on the side of a home to convert the fiber light signal to Ethernet and phone service.

There is no resistance in the fiber optic cable, unlike copper lines, so the signal can travel infinitely futher, because it’s light, not an electron flow. With fiber, Directcom can now serve more remote customers in rural areas like Arbon, who live many miles away from the central phone office with broadband products like ethernet, VOIP, video conferencing, home security systems, remote appliance management, and other IP-based apps, which will be vital to the future economies of rural areas. Fiber optics will open up whole new markets of people who previously were too far to pick up a DSL signal over copper.

Farr related that the residents of Arbon had been extremely cooperative during the construction, often helping out the crews, which had helped the project go smoothly.

“The farmers would let us park our equipment in their sheds or shops overnight so that things like the water trailer wouldn’t freeze; they would let us fill up with water from their pumps—the whole community was just really helpful. Larry Fitch and Monty Evans made room in their sheds for us on many a cold night.” He related that people were so excited to get internet service that they would go out of their way to help get the work completed quickly.

“Once, at the end of the season, we were stopped by a really bad snowstorm, and a resident from Garden Creek drove out in the snow to pick up our fiber splicer, and all his equipment, on her personal snowmobile, so that we could complete the fiber splicing at their home.

We had people working in some very remote areas in Arbon, and sometimes we would run out of gas. Ken Estep once came out when we were in trouble and gave us a full tank of gas from his farm tanks.

I also want to thank the County Road Crew for all their help—they were extremely responsive in issuing all the road permits and easements we needed, and were very easy to work with—we were able to coordinate our fiber and road construction schedules—we couldn’t have completed this project without them.”

Directcom used local Arbon electrician, Cody Evans, to help wire the homes internal communications lines so that they would be ready for a fiber ethernet connection, and also to connect the homes power to the fiber terminal battery backup. Unlike the old copper network terminal, the fiber electronics (called an Optical Network Terminal, or ONT) on the side of a home, needs a power supply, and that required new electrical wiring in most cases.

A friendly Arbon dog- photo by Jason Garner.

Lucas McHargue, Construction Supervisor, said he remembers those years working in Arbon consisting of long, sometimes lonely days, and each home they connected had a story to it. “I remember times when the snow was so deep on people’s driveways that even the backhoe couldn’t go through it, and we would have to move forward bucket by bucket, as I cleared the snow away. We met a lot of interesting people out there, and a lot of different dogs—some friendly, some not so friendly. People would call into the main office after we left their home and say: ‘Those guys deserve a raise,’ which I agreed with.”

Jason Garner, Rockland and Arbon Exchange Manager, who spent three years travelling to Arbon each day during this project, and personally spliced the cable to a lot of the homes, feels a real sense of accomplishment in completing the enormous job there. “We had a lot of good times together as a crew—it was good to be part of a team, all working together towards a single goal, and those years really drew us together. I want to thank everyone on the crew who put in so many hours to get this done, including Brent Moss (now retired) Lucas McHargue, Steven Robinson, Marshall Ralphs, Nathan Taysom, Allan Jones, Tim Lee, Brendon Mingo, Phil Pratt, and of course the techs back in the office like Brad Medinger and Austin Turley, who turned on the ONTs remotely, and so many others—this was a real team effort.”

Garner reported that one of his favorite memories from his years working in Arbon was getting to know each homeowner personally by name. “We were in every home. We met a lot of good people.  I always used to wonder how Brent knew every customer by name, and now I know—because he put in all the copper to those home decades  ago. Now it was my turn to meet them all during this fiber upgrade.”

Moose seen in Knox Canyon during daily commute to Arbon- photo by Jason Garner

Garner said they saw a lot of wildlife during the commute over the mountains between Rockland and Arbon, including his closest ever encounter with a moose.

Besides the direct access to high-speed internet from Direct Communications that will bring the benefits of faster broadband to residential customers and anchor institutions like Arbon Elementary School, the fiber will benefit the community in many other ways Directcom has connected fiber to two cell phone towers in the valley, which will increase coverage and data speeds for people using certain cell phones. Fiber in an area means better communications for everyone.

The Arbon area’s first telephone lines were laid by local farmers, who asked former Rockland Telephone Company owner, Joseph Lee May, to acquire the lines back in the 1950’s. He was able to connect the two exchange areas together using copper lines hung on poles. Arbon and Rockland are now connected by various buried fiber optic lines that run right over the mountains separating the valleys, and Arbon will become part of a route that transports a lot of data traffic around southeast Idaho for various major carriers.

When will the rest of Direct Communications customers be upgraded to fiber?

Farr explained: “We have a 5-year plan to basically convert all of our exchange areas from Bear Lake to Rockland to 100% fiber to the home. Arbon is complete. We started on Rockland this year, and will be completely upgraded to fiber over the next 2 years there. Bear Lake is the biggest project and that will take longer, but we already have a few subdivisions there completely converted to fiber, including The Reserve and Cottle Communities in Fish Haven. This summer we also buried new duct to about 30 homes in Canyon Estates in Fish Haven, and we hope to complete splicing the fiber there by the end of this year.”

Fiber optic cable carries an all-digital signal, which is better suited to today’s digital communication devices. Also, there is no interference from electric lines or magnetic fields like you experience with copper, so the signal is clearer, which will result in a better conversation and data transmission. Even lighting strikes, which can be transmitted by copper cabling, is not transmitted by Fiber-optic cable.

Having fiber to a home is a great modern feature that can increase the functionality and value of a home. In fact, having Fiber to the Home could increase the value of a home by as much as $5,000, according to the Fiber-to-the-Home Council *.  Fiber could be a great economic leveler for rural residents.  The homes in Arbon now have the same advanced connectivity as the most high-tech building in any major financial district in the world.

Calix ONT card that is installed on the side of a home to convert the fiber light signal to Ethernet and phone service. Note how a CAT5 network cable will plug directly into the ONT for an internet connection without needing a modem or any other equipment.

What We Did in 2011

2011- Although this year was one of increased uncertainty for the rural telecommunications industry, with the FCC and federal administration threatening to cut major funding sources for rural areas under the guise of the national broadband plan, Direct Communications as a company made some important strides forward to strengthen our company, get to know our customers better, improve our products and offerings, focus on our core business, improve our competitive position in the markets we serve, and acquire new customers and revenue sources.

Overall, 2011 was a very good year. Our employees and customers should feel satisfied that we made a real difference to our communities, and improved the quality of life in both Idaho and Utah during 2011. That is what makes even us in marketing sleep well at night. We spent the year expanding our fiber network to the vital institutions that serve your rural areas, like schools, hospitals, city, county and government buildings, doctors offices, libraries, small and large businesses, and of course, homes.

We were excited to upgrade to a new Metaswitch IP switch in our Idaho exchanges at the beginning of 2011. Direct Communications was the first telephone company in Idaho to implement a digital switch several years ago, and this new central switch replacement was another pioneering step for rural telecommunications in Idaho. The old digital switch was about the size of an average living room. The new switch is about the size of a small refrigerator. A major difference between the new one and the old switch, besides the size, is that this new switch was developed to take advantage of all the newest computer and internet advancements, especially in its ability to use IP protocol, to talk to modern electronic devices, like IP phones, computers, routers etc., and work on a fiber-optic network.

In Eagle Mountain, the year began with some great publicity as Direct Communications was awarded the 2010 Best Business of the Year by the Lehi Area Chamber of Commerce. https://blog.directcom.com/2011/01/19/direct-communications-awarded-2010-best-business-of-the-year/

After months of work, Direct Communications was able to open the doors to their new building on Campus Drive in Eagle Mountain in February, 2011.  Our grand opening was held in June, along with the ribbon cutting of the Eagle Mountain City business incubator program. The building has 8 “pods”, or office spaces, approximately 2500 square feet each.  Direct Communications houses four of the pods, Beyond Limits Physical Therapy occupies one pod, and the Eagle Mountain City incubator program has the remaining three pods.  After working in two separate areas for several years, Direct Communications was excited to have all of their employees at the same location. This new building signified an important coming-of-age for DCCV, which began as a start-up in the back of the fire station in 2006, and employees who remember all sharing a single bathroom and welcoming potential customers into the reception desk/storage area/stairwell, now had their own offices with hardwood trim—an unimaginable prospect 5 years ago. For more about the building see https://blog.directcom.com/2011/10/06/opening-ceremony-ribbon-cutting-for-new-direct-communications-building-in-eagle-mountain/

We began the year with a couple of new marketing initiatives to launch our new brand position and tagline of “faster streaming broadband” and started by giving away a year-long subscription to Netflix streaming to all new customers in January.  In February we gave away a Roku streaming media player to all new customers. In June, to coincide with Pony Express Days, we gave away a Wii to new customers, which enjoyed about the same success as the Xbox promotion the previous year. All of these device promotions were designed to migrate customers towards using streaming video as their primary entertainment source, because that not only increases the value of our service from a commodity to a premium product, but also, once they become dependent on their internet for video entertainment purposes, they are less likely to leave us for a wireless competitor. We conducted a couple of customer survey during the year, and found that 66% of our customers said they now use online streaming of video as their primary entertainment source.

Also during June, we announced new broadband speeds for all customers, with our basic speed starting at 8Mb, and our fastest speed on offer at 50Mb. This was designed around our main wireless competitors offerings, which had 7Mb as their top speed. Of course, by the end of the year they had also reacted and changed their packages to advertise 10Mb and 15Mb speeds.

After Pony Express Days we cut back on advertising until December, when we rolled out a Kindle Fire as a Christmas promotion, which emphasized making the internet fun—since the new Kindle could stream video, download apps, and play games. The Kindle promotion ended up being our most successful marketing campaign of 2011.

However, 2011 was an interesting year for marketing with the maturing of social media, which for the first time played an important part of our integrated marketing, and opened up a new target media market for us, since we could now target internet customers living only in Eagle Mountain and we began spending a significant portion of our advertising budget on facebook ads.

We began the year by splitting our facebook page into two separate pages for Idaho and Utah, to make it more relevant to each market. Acquiring fans was a slow process at the beginning, until we learned the only sure way to entice more customers to our page was with online promotions for facebook fans.  By the end of the year we had over 500 customers on our Eagle Mountain facebook page. See  https://blog.directcom.com/2011/06/14/first-winner-of-directcom-monthly-facebook-fan-contest/

Navigating social media has been a learning experience for us, and we have had to learn to take the good with the bad, as dissatisfied customers also like to use our page as a soapbox, but overall it has been a positive experience for both the company and our customers, and we actually implemented a lot of good suggestions made by customers on our page through our interactions this year.

We presented on the subject of social media at the annual Utah Rural Telephone Association meeting in St George.

Direct Communications Cedar Valley’s own Brenda Caldwell was named Utah Valley’s Raddest Receptionist by Utah Valley BusinessQ Magazine, and Brenda was featured in the Fall 2011 issue. https://blog.directcom.com/2011/09/29/directcoms-brenda-caldwell-named-utah-valleys-raddest-receptionist/

Probably the most significant change during 2011 was the sale of our wireless internet business to Digis, after being one of the first companies in southeast Idaho to offer wireless internet over 10 years ago. We made this decision primarily so that we could focus on our core business of growing our fiber optic network in Idaho and developing our wired internet products, including our cable and DSL technologies. The money from the sale would be reinvested into developing the products where we have a real competitive advantage. Read more about this move at: https://blog.directcom.com/2011/10/13/sale-of-wireless-internet-assets-to-digis/

Immediately after the sale of our wireless business, we launched the ESPN3 broadband channel for our high-speed customers in Idaho. 2011 turned out to be a great year to offer ESPN3, because BYU football, which many of our customers follow, went independent largely on an ESPN broadcasting contract, and so most of their games were streamed online on ESPN3 this year.

We were also kept very busy working with the three major national mobile phone providers to construct and deliver fiber optic service to most of the cell phone towers in the area, so that they could offer more data to their customers, and we also now wholesale broadband service to most of our competitors in the area. Without an extensive fiber optic network, our rural economy in Idaho would not be able to function in this information age. As our tagline claims, we are the future of broadband technology in the rural areas we serve.

Farewell to the Oxford Community Center

Oxford Community Center

Last week we closed the doors of the Direct Communications Oxford Community Center after two years of serving that community with a free internet and computer center. However, our high-speed internet service will continue to be available to residents at their homes.

Oxford, Idaho, is a very small town nestled right up against the mountainside in a pretty valley west of Preston. A drive through Oxford is almost like a drive through time. At the center of town is a small dairy still in operation, and certain things are probably no different than they were 120 years ago. The house we rented to house the community center was probably built over 100 years ago, but there weren’t a lot of available options. Next to the center were a couple of horses running in a pasture, and cows grazing on the hill behind us. However, even in very small rural American towns like Oxford, broadband technology is everywhere, and this is a clear indication that the existing programs in place to bring broadband to rural america are working.  There is a brand new cell phone tower overlooking the town. A fiber optic line runs directly through town—part of our fiber loop running between Downey and Preston, which Direct Communications laid in 2008. This fiber route to Oxford was financed in part by RUS funds, and part of the agreement with the RUS was that we would provide an opportunity for the residents there to experience high-speed internet service. Two years ago, Leonard May and I knocked on the door of each home in town, to find out who would be interested in having fiber to the home, since we were already laying a fiber line through the area. We didn’t get a overwhelming response—in fact—thinking back, I can’t remember a single person who was very interested. So, our plans to install fiber to the home were shelved. However, we installed a wireless access point in town feeding directly from our fiber and opened the community center with help from Dana Cox, whom we hired as our agent in Oxford, and who would manage the center for the next 2 years.

Dana also hired Phyllis Murphy, along with a couple of other local Oxford residents to keep the center staffed and always open from 12pm-6pm each weekday and on Saturday mornings. We installed countertops and set up 10 new computers with high-speed internet connections, a phone, and a printer. Dana kept a log of all the people who visited the center, and I was initially surprised at how many people visited each day. The Oxford Community center was well used. Dana was a wonderful representative for us in the community, and we would like to publicly thank everybody who staffed the community center. We hope that those who visited the center had a good experience and will have a positive lasting impression of Direct Communications.

Residents of Oxford who want to continue using high speed internet should call us to install wireless internet at their home at 208 237 9729. Regular rates will now apply.